Skip Navigation

Featured Alumni Ashley Zumwalt

Ashley Zumwalt OU Petroleum Engineering

Featured Alum

Ashley Zumwalt-Forbes

Ashley Zumwalt-Forbes
Class of 2012
B.S. Petroleum Engineering – Summa Cum Laude
MBA - Harvard University
Company and Role President & COO, Black Mountain Metals


Have you had any unique or exciting experiences in your work as a petroleum or geological engineer? 
I’ve had quite an unconventional career: I transitioned from ExxonMobil to private equity, from oil and gas to mining, and from engineer to entrepreneur. Over that period, I’ve traveled to over 50 countries (some for work, some for fun). My most exciting adventure to date is being the cofounder of a battery metals mining company in Perth, Australia. I now spend about half of my time in Perth (the other half at my home in Fort Worth, TX). I’ve learned a tremendous amount about the mining sector – you would be amazed at how well the broad concepts of petroleum carry over into mining! I am no longer doing the technical design work, but investment concepts are quite similar.

How have you seen the energy industry change during your career?
Even over a relatively short period, my vantage point on the industry has changed dramatically. I’m still a proud petroleum engineer and staunch believer in the industry, but I’ve also found that the rhetoric around electric vehicles is growing stronger and is starting to be converted into actual sales. Although I don’t believe the oil and gas industry is going anywhere any time soon, I do think EVs will start to grab market share away from ICEs. I think the move to EVs will lead to a natural gas renaissance because inevitably some of that electricity generation will come from the greenest fossil fuel.

Why did you decide to become a petroleum or geological engineer?
I’m from a small town in Oklahoma and am the first person in my immediate family to graduate from university. I wasn’t sure what my options for degrees at OU were, but I knew I wanted a degree where I could stand on my own two feet and get a job immediately after school without attending grad school. I also loved math and science. Majoring in engineering seemed to be a sensible plan right out of the gates for me, but choosing the petroleum designation took some time – ultimately, I found that I loved the industry (and the salary expectations didn’t hurt, haha). I found the people involved in the oil and gas industry to be fascinating and the industry to be vital to both the world’s economy and improving daily lives. I wanted that for my career, and that’s certainly what I got.

What advice do you have for our current students?
Nothing groundbreaking here, but if you want something, you have to really go after it to make it a reality. I find that people do a lot more thinking and talking than they do doing; I’d recommend flipping that on its head. The world responds well to action. Times won’t always be rosy, but as long as you are moving, you’ll get through them, and hopefully be on stronger footing than you were previously.

If there are one or two things that have made you successful in your career, what would they be?
Grit and perseverance. I don’t believe I’m any smarter than anyone else out there, but I do believe I work harder than most people.

What are some words you live by?
If you can’t bet on yourself, you can’t bet on anything